2009 DAMONGO PROJECT OVERVIEW
2009 was the ‘Paperwork” year. Our goal for Project #3 was to get Tools for Schools Africa officially registered as a charity in both Canada and Ghana with Boards of Directors and bank accounts for both. We also wanted to get the scholarship program up and running, and to meet the girls selected by the scholarship committee. We were successful in meeting all these goals.
April 16, 2008 TFS-Africa Foundation was formally incorporated in the Province of Alberta. Before we were incorporated, we received assistance from a number of other NGO’s. We would like to acknowledge the contributions of A Better World, Give Meaning Foundation and Canadians Reaching Out (CARO) as well as legal assistance from Red Deer lawyers Brian McNairn and Michael Keyes.
In September 2009 Tools for Schools Africa Foundation received charitable status in Canada (#119112522 RR 0001). The Board of directors included Marilyn Pottage (chair) Cindy Jefferies (deputy chair), Marilyn Ganger (secretary), Marsha Smalley (treasurer) Michael Keyes (legal advisor), and members-at-large Jean Mudd, Cathy Sather, Gary Pottage and Lois Tallas.
Marilyn P, Francisca, Noble and Marilyn G.
In November 2009 Tools for Schools Africa Society was officially recognized in Ghana as Tools for Schools Africa Society (#4285). The Board of Directors include Francisca Amoako, Lydia Ajono, Noble Donkor Marilyn Ganger and Marilyn Pottage.
Our sincere thanks to our legal advisers, Brian McNairn and Michael Keyes, both of whom donated their time to submit appropriate legal paperwork for the registration of Tools for Schools Africa Foundation as a registered Canadian charity.
We wish to thank the kind people of Central Alberta who continue to believe in and support the cause of girls’ education in Ghana, and the fine people who have volunteered to serve on the Boards in both countries. Special thanks to Noble Donkor who spent time in Accra getting the paperwork started so that we were able to reach completion and receive documentation during our visit.
TRAVEL JOURNAL 2009
Update as of: December 27, 2009
News from Damongo
A new year is upon us and I am pleased to report that the scholarship girls are doing well. I have just added a picture of the three girls we are presently sponsoring at SAGISS a cost of US$800 per year. That includes room and board, and of course books, tuition and uniform. The school is one of the finest in the country and these girls have demonstrated academic excellence in order to pass entrance exams. They are fortunate indeed as the headmistress at St. Anne''s, Gabriella, takes a personal interest in each and every girl, and treats each like extended family. As with students here, you can see that there were a pile of books required. The girls are in either grade eleven or grade twelve.
We have also gotten letters from the four girls (Safura, Samila, Nafkatu and Abagail) attending the vocational high school in Damongo, NDESCO. Madame Mary is teacher/mentor there and is also a member of our scholarship committee. As with Gabriella, she follows the progress and nurtures each one of the scholarship girls. Mary sent along this note. "I write to say thank you and to show my appreciation and that of the headmaster of our school for the wonderful support you and your foundation have given to several of our needy girls. Your assistance has been very helpful for the girls and we hope and pray that the good Lord in his own way will grant you your heart''s desires and hope that you will continue to help the needy girls to the highest level. We also hope that you will get more support so that more of such students can benefit from the package.....Thank you, Azotikemah Mary Teni"
NDESCO student Abigail writes, "I was so happy when I heard that you have given money for the payment of school fees and other needs. My parents too were very grateful and they said at last God had answered their prayers by bringing someone to help them to pay for my fees. They extend their sincerest thanks and appreciation for giving them such help. I am so happy I do not know how to express my gratitude....and I promise that I will not misuse this great opportunity.....I have not forgotten the story you told me about the old woman and her grandson with the groundnuts at our first meeting. I will end here with greetings to you and all your loved ones. Yours sincerely, Senzu Afibuh Abigail."
Although it is true in Canada it is even more true in Africa: education empowers women and gives them options for the future. Not only will the lives of these girls be changed forever, but it is the African way for a woman to support other girls. Each educated girl has the potential to improve both their communities and their country, and will never see their own children uneducated. You can see the ''education'' legacy continues over the years.
I will end with the story of the groundnuts that Abigail referred to. It was told to us by our driver Sule. He said his grandfather was very wise, and well respected in their village. The teenage boys who were behaving badly would not listen to others but would listen to him. So one day Sule ask him how he became such a wise man, and how to live a life well. His grandfather told him to go away and come back in one hour. That he did. When he returned, there were ten groundnuts laying out in a row. Just by looking at them he could tell that the last one was rotten. His grandfather told him to eat the peanuts. He asked if he had to eat them all, and his grandfather said that he must. So he ate the first nine, and they were delicious. Then he gagged down the tenth one. His grandfather said, "Now, which flavor do you remember most, the good nuts or the bad nut?" He replied that the taste of the bad one was still in his mouth. The grandfather said, "Even though there were nine good nuts, you remember the bad one. And it is the same with life. You can do nine good acts, but if you do a bad act that is what people will remember. So all your acts must be kind and honourable". I thought it was a very good story, so I told it to each of the scholarship recipients when we met.
We thank you once again for all that you have done to give these girls such an opportunity.
Nov - Dec, 2009
We hope you are all healthy and happy. Thank you for your continued interest in and support of Tools for Schools Africa.
The August trip to Ghana went very well. The highlight of the trip was meeting the 14 scholarship recipients we are supporting for the 2009-2010 school year. These girls have huge potential to help their families, their communities and their country. Rashida, above, is one of the brightest girls her headmistress has seen in all her years of teaching. She is very good at math and says she will be an accountant for the World Bank so that she can monitor the wise use of funds going to Africa. Because her father died last year and she is from a family of four, she would not have been able to continue her education without TFS-A support. Each girl has an interesting and sometimes heartbreaking story. We have agreed to fund the girls for a minimum of two years. All have agreed to ''pay forward'' this opportunity by supporting the education of two more girls in the future.
After the girls have proven their ongoing commitment to their education and community, we hope to have Canadian families ''adopt'' each girl and be financially responsible for two to four years of post secondary support. The cost would vary from $400 to $1,000 a year. The strength of TFS-A is the network of committed women in Ghana all working toward finding the right girls to move their country forward. We will continue to find these outstanding young women and fund them for two trial years, knowing that Canadian families will generously support proven talent.
Our other goal was to register a Ghanaian NGO. Within the last week, I have received the paperwork confirming that our registered Canadian charity is now also registered in Ghana. By having NGO''s in both countries we are able to transfer and monitor funds with ease, and deal with any problems as they arise. Two women on our Ghanaian Board of Directors, Francisca and Lydia, look after day to day issues and will be invaluable as we move forward with the building of the St. Anne''s Boarding House addition in May 2010.
The great news about the building project is that prof Kelley Beaverford and students from the University of Manitoba Architectural Faculty will be overseeing the project, and helping with the building. We have the costs of the basic structure covered but are hoping to improve the existing kitchen and toilet/bath facilities as well. There is presently no running water which means there are NO hand washing sinks. Two or three gravity fed sinks could really improve sanitation and health issues. Of course a gravity feed requires a tank supported at roof level, an expensive undertaking. As well a fence around the property is needed as people are moving onto their land, so we will see how far the money goes. Our good friend Mahama has agreed to assist Kelley as inventory control officer and building consultant. You can see that the spring is indeed an exciting time for Tools for Schools Africa and we are looking forward to both the building project and expanding the scholarship program to 28 girls.
If you have 2009 charity dollars still left, we can issue you a tax deductible receipt for this calendar year if we receive it before Dec 31. Donations can be made on this site or can be mailed to Tools for Schools Africa Foundation, 4757-56 Street, Red Deer, AB. T4N 2K2.
We hope all of you are surviving the flu season and wish you many blessings in the coming year. We''ll keep you posted!
August 27, 2009
Many thanks to Sandy for posting our brief blogs. We are home again and very satisfied with the events of the past two weeks. Not everything was completed, but everything is on the way and we have very capable people carrying on.
Here is what we accomplished in a flying two week trip. We got Tools for Schools Africa registered with the Registrar General's office in Accra. Tools for Schools Africa Society is now an incorporated society in Ghana. There is still one more step in that process which is not yet complete but is in the works. We set up a bank account for Tools for Schools Africa at Barclay's and were not able to complete it without the certificate of incorporation which did not come through until Monday noon but it is also well on the way.
Most important of course is the people, and we did indeed meet and spend time with many old and new friends. Of course we had to link up with Mahama and Sule and their families, and both those reunions were fun indeed. Mahama was in Kumasi so made a gigantic effort to get to Damongo to meet us. We took scribblers and pencils for his four kids, and fingernail polish for Mamuna his wife as that was her request last time. Mahama said, "Oh dear, I think you have forgotten Mahama!", but Marilyn G assured him he could share Mamuna's finger nail polish. He said he feared the men at work would wonder about him, but his face broke into an ear to ear smile when a pair of sunglasses came out of the bag for him. In no time he had taken on the air of a 'bigman'!
Mahama in his new shades
Mamuna with Jamal and Zulia.
Sule met us at the airport in Tamale and we so enjoyed the time we were able to spend with him. On Sunday he and his friend Hawa invited us over for fufu and light goat soup which was really delicious, and then were headed over the the compound where his children are being cared for by their grandmother. Sule will be going back to school to be a mechanic with the help of some Canadian friends.
Marilyn P, Mary (Vocational School) Adrianna (Boarding House girls), Marilyn G., Gabriella (Secondary Residential School)
Much of the time in Damongo was spent with Gabriella, Mary and Adrianna, the women on the scholarship committee who are all school headmistresses and leaders in their own right. We got financial arrangements made to make sure all scholarships were in place in four schools, and learned of the backgrounds of the scholarship recipients. Many a discussion was held over a meal or a beverage, all of which were most enjoyable. The committee are: Marilyn P, Mary (Vocational School) Adrianna (Boarding House girls), Marilyn G., Gabriella (Secondary Residential School). The gentleman from the Damongo government Secondary school had been in a motorcycle accident so was unable to join us, but we spoke with him on the phone.
And of course I saved the best to last, the girls themselves. They come from various villages and tribes all over the Northern region. Some are orphans or only have one parent; many are children of subsistence farmers. Rashida, the one with the white head wrap, wants to be an accountant with the World Bank so she can help set policy on aid to African countries, and she just might do it! Many want to be doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers.....all have specific aims. We will plan some public opportunities for you to meet these girls through video, and get to know of their lives and their dreams. Here are four representative of the entire group:
We met with Amoah and Korley, the fine young artists from Accra who are helping us fundraise for the project, and we have brought back twenty really fine works of art. As soon as time allows, we will post them on this website (Support / Gifts page) and you can think about paintings as possible decor in your home, knowing that the funds go directly to supporting these fine girls.
As well we are looking at channelling some money to Damongo Presby Primary School. Last school year the Annie L. Gaetz Elementary school students raised funds that they wanted used to supply primary children with scribblers, pencils and uniforms. We met with the headmistress, Madame Veronica, and she is more than pleased to make sure the funds are used for that exact purpose. She also had a request: they have no educational or learning materials for their large number of kindergarten students. We are looking at the possibility of getting space in a container going to Ghana and shipping second hand educational materials appropriate for a school kindergarten. She requested items to teach colors, shapes, numbers, letters, etc. English is a second language for these children, so they need help learning it. Please think about how you could help with this....Veronica says she has had to ask the small children to leave the library sometimes because they are 'spoiling' the books, but that they are so keen to learn she hates to do it. I'm sure we can do something about this through collection of learning materials, small cardboard books, puzzles, etc from garage sales and friends. As well we have had requests for five or six computers for schools that have none. If you know of anyone upgrading computers whose old machine is no more than four years old, let us know. Perhaps some business?
Thanks for your good wishes, financial supports and all the things that go into making a project like this work. It does change lives directly, one to one. We still have no paid employees or significant overhead costs so we give you our personal guarantees that your dollars are well spent. We look forward to our building project next May when the University of Manitoba architectural students will work with us on an addition to the Boarding House. Here is the existing one; a small upgrade of it might be in the works as well! And the Primary School is in desperate need of a library building. If you know of an organization looking for a 'cause' in the third world, please keep this in mind.
All for now,
August 20, 2009
You are getting a very brief note as we just wrote and sent a long one and lost it all, but we want you to know how happy we are with the fine young women that were selected by the scholarship committee. We have spent a good deal of time in the past few days with Gabriella, Adrianna and Mary, all principals and very fine leaders in their own right. The girls they have chosen to receive scholarships are wonderful young women with heartbreaking stories. We thank you all so much for your part in offering them a chance to get education in the next couple years.
Girls visiting as they carry water home from the well.
Tonight we pack and leave for Tamale in the morning. There we will meet with Lydia, Mahama and if possible Henry Akanko, a Tamale Rotarian we met last year. Saturday morning we fly to Accra where Jimah will meet us, and Saturday afternoon is our opportunity to meet Amoah and Korley, the fine artists we have been working with, in person. Sunday will be the last day of relaxation as Monday will be a whirlwind of government offices and banks, trying to get the rest of the financial and legal work completed before we leave. We are hoping for traffic that actually MOVES! Tuesday morning we head for home.
It has been a great couple weeks - hope everyone at home is well - see you soon. Love,
Marilyn and Marilyn
August 16, 2009
Well, here we are in Damongo, sweating and smelling like we have been here forever. Well, we will start at the beginning.
The plane trip was uneventful, and we arrived in Accra Wednesday night. They had Canadian-type weather ready for us, so while Ghanaians were putting sweaters on, we were very happy. The next morning we were very pleased indeed to see Noble walking toward us at the Guest house. Noble and Francisca had done a good deal of leg work on the incorporation proceedings before we arrived, so we headed off to the Registrar General's Offices to sign the first set of documents.
For those of you who have not yet heard of these two fine people, they are both a blessing to us indeed. Noble is a Ghanaian who teaches at CUC in Lacombe, and who knows a lot of people in Ghana who have been able to assist us. Fransisca is a contact through some Canadians from Winnipeg who we met before, thanks to a contact with Norm Dueck of Edmonton South Rotary. She administers projects for the Rights and Voice Initiative, an organization that supports women's rights. We loved her happy disposition and sense of humor, and her ability to get things done. We also loved her beautifully designed African print dress!
We spent Friday with a young doctor from Holland who is coming to Damongo for the first time to intern in tropical medicine. We showed her some of the local sights after spending the morning at Barclay's bank tracking the money we had wired previously. We hope to have a phone call about that tomorrow.
Saturday we headed north on an early flight to Tamale. That required a 4 a. m. start to the day but it was certainly worth it. As we landed in Tamale we saw water, water and more water. All the creeks and low areas were flooded, and water could be seen between the rows of crops. It was fun to have Sule meet us at the airport, and after some other business we met another new contact in Tamale named Lydia. She is a really fine woman who has also agreed to work with Tools for School Africa. Her story is interesting - she was in charge of her father's cattle but stood at the school room window to learn English. Now she is a journalist who has one son but has adopted three more and educated five of her sister's children.
The road to Damongo
The road to Damongo is worse than I have ever seen. We drove more in the ditch than on the road, going back and forth over the road from one side to another.
Today is Sunday. We had a leisurely breakfast with fine fresh fruit, and now are heading to Sule's place for fufu and light goat soup. If all goes well we might yet make it to Mole for a swim. Tomorrow we will meet with Father William to make sure all the scholarship recipients have been contacted about coming to Damongo some time this week.
We'll send you more news later in the week if the internet cooperates - hope you all are well.
Marilyn and Marilyn
We want to keep you up to date with the most recent happenings so you know how much difference a few dollars can make in the lives of Ghanaian girls.
With ongoing donations from Rotary Club of Edmonton South, the Wild Rose Foundation, and some personal donors, we are once again able to offer a good number of scholarships to promising young girls so they are able to attend junior high, senior high, or post secondary education this fall. If the year end marks of the twelve girls we sponsored this past year are good, we will continue to fund them and expand the program to include at least 24 more girls.
Thanks again to the fine people in both Ghana and Canada who have been involved with Tools for Schools Africa over the long term, including among others the Boards of Directors, Norm Dueck, Val Sandall, Doug Sather and our awesome webmaster, Sandy Stepien. We so appreciate all that all of you have done and continue to do to help African girls get an education.
Please contact me if you have any questions. Thanks again for your support and interest in the project.
August 7, 2009
Marilyn G. and I are once again packing our bags for a quick trip to Damongo. Our primary purpose is to make sure that educational scholarships are in place for the fall term. We will be supporting girls to attend both junior high and high school, half residential with tuition, books, uniform, etc. The other half will receive tuition, books and uniforms but not room and board. We hope to meet them all this trip and bring back their stories for you to read and their pictures for you to see.
As well we are looking ahead to the building of the Boarding House addition in May 2010. The exciting news is that we will be working with the University of Manitoba architectural students if final approval is given by the University, but it looks good. The prof Kelley Beaverford and about a dozen students will assist with the design and building of the structure. In anticipation of funding that project, we hope this trip will allow us to incorporate and register Tools for Schools Africa Foundation as a charity in Ghana, and set up a bank account in that name. Havng signing authority over the money on both ends will make reporting here much easier.
I wish to acknowledge the wonderful work done by Noble Donkor, a Ghanaian prof at CUC, Lacombe. Noble took our paperwork with him when he departed on July 28, and has been successful in getting the preliminary incorporation procedures well under way. We were most encouraged by his phone call yesterday, and email as well. In part it read, " Through the help of Francisca and a friend called Harry we were able to purchase the forms from the Registrar General's office.....Harry will complete all the forms (many pages) on our behalf, submit them to the Registrar' office and pick them up by Wednesday. Hopefully, we can sign them on Thursday, the day after your arrival and pick up the certificate two or three days after. Then the certificate will go to the Social Welfare office where Harry works. He says he can get it completed in a week."
Our contact with Noble was through A Better World, so we thank them as well for their ongoing support of our project.
We will try to blog from Ghana during this trip, depending on internet availability.
July 23, 2009
Here it is July and I realize that a year ago today we were in Damongo doing training sessions with all those fine teachers. We are hopeful that the information and teacher resources we were able to share with them are having a positive effect for both teachers and the children in their classrooms.
In mid August (about three weeks away) Marilyn G and I are heading back to Ghana. There are two main purposes to this trip. One is to start the registration process for our own NGO in Ghana. Having an NGO there would allow us to transfer money directly to our own account in Ghana, making the handling of funds far less cumbersome. The second purpose is to transfer the scholarship money for the girls selected by the scholarship committee to the four educational institutions they will attend. We thank Father William for all his work helping to get this trip organized. Laz is in England right now having a well deserved rest so unfortunately we will not see him. Bishop Philip has become the Archbishop of the Tamale Diocese so I am not sure if we will see him or not. We look forward to meeting Mahama, Gabriella, Adrianna, Sule, Philemon and many other Damongo friends. As well, we will try to attend a Tamale Rotary meeting while we are there. We also look forward to meeting with Amoah and Korley, our Ghanian artist friends, in order to bring back more fabulous art.
So the packing is now beginning, but we only take a carry on, so we have to pack efficiently. It will be very nice not to be hauling along projectors, teaching materials and all assundried that we usually carry! One smart thing I did was write down everything that came out of my toiletries/pharmacy bag when we returned in 2007. That list has made packing much easier as I am not concerned about forgetting something vital. Now, assuming the visas from the Canadian High Commission arrive VERY soon.....
Our thanks go out to the fine Alberta people who continue to support the Tools for Schools Africa cause, and in particular to Debbie Weiers for her recent substantial donation. Thanks also to the Annie L Gaetz students who raised almost $3,000 for TFS-A as well as Red Deer Kiwanis who recently made a fine donation as well. We could not continue to operate without the work of our terrific Board of directors, and in particular Michael Keyes who has done a significant amount of legal work on our behalf. Thanks also to Norm Dueck & Edmonton Rotary South, Val Sandall, Brian and Eric from A Better World and Sandy Stepien (webmaster extraordinaire) who continue to support TFS-A with their time and talents. There are many more of you - I cannot list you all, but know that we truly appreciate all that you do for Tools for Schools Africa Foundation. We will keep you posted as much as we are able while traveling. How much information we are bale to send back depends on the state of the email facilities and our time. At any rate we will keep you posted as to the progress we are making on these two fronts.
Stay well, and safe journeys,